This year, among other New Year’s resolutions, I decided to dedicate myself to increasing my following on social media, interacting more with followers, and inserting myself into more conversations online. But now that we’re in the middle of February, and things are starting to slow down and we’re all finding that we’re losing some of the momentum we had at the beginning of the year, it’s worth going back to those resolutions.

Last time I talked about the 4 technologies small businesses have to pay attention to in 2013. This week I’m going to be taking a look at our social media resolutions for 2013, and how we can double down on our commitments and find success building our following as well as our brands. It’s valuable to take these kinds of check-ins to see where we stand on our resolutions and evaluate our strategies.  Today I’m going to offer you some of the solutions I’ve found to improve my interaction and engagement online through social media.

1. Create a schedule and stick to it.

Some days I have plenty of free time to engage and interact with followers on Twitter and Facebook. Especially when there are major events like the State of the Union Address, the Super Bowl, and the Grammy Awards, it’s easy to find huge audiences to connect with online. But other days there isn’t nearly as much going on and it’s a stretch to find content to share and discuss online.

One thing that I’ve found useful is making sure that I have a minimum schedule of the number of interactions or posts I’m making on my social media accounts. You can start with something low, even 1 or 2 tweets a day, when done consistently, can have a huge impact long-term. But the trick is not to simply have a schedule, but to review it every week and analyze what’s working and what isn’t.

Once a week I try and sit down to look back over my engagement and interactions on social media. I check to see how I’m doing against my schedule: did I meet my goal for my minimum Facebook posts and tweets each day? I also ask myself questions like: what topics sparked interest, and what posts fell flat? Which hashtags caught on and which went unnoticed?

By constantly evaluating and re-evaluating what you’re doing, as well as setting a schedule, you’re on the right track for social media success.

2. Find new ways to stay on top of the latest trends.

Now that you’re working on identifying individuals, brands, and businesses you’re following and engaging with, it’s time to start taking things to the next level. Different apps and websites can help you with finding great news stories and fresh topics to discuss on social media.

First off, take a look at what news sources the people you respect and follow are using. If you’re seeing the same blogs or publications come up, you may want to come up with a better system to track their latest stories. With apps like Flipboard and Zite you can create your own, personalized magazine based on the feeds from publications and blogs you like, so that you can browse them every day in an easy-to-digest format.

Still other apps, like News.me, Thirst, and Smartr work based on your social stream—they strip out the tweets and turn your Twitter feeds into a source of just the news people are sharing and discussing. This way, so long as you’re following the people and topics you care about you can easily get an up-to-the-minute feed of stories that interest you (and may provide some great fodder for online discussion!)

As you identify news sources, blogs, and authors, be sure you’re adding them to a system you trust and check regularly. I strongly recommend using some apps on your smartphone or tablet to do this. That way whenever you have some downtime you can check-in on your own, personalized, news feed. When you’re struggling to find content to discuss on social media, you’re just a tap away from a whole world of exciting, new, news stories.

3. Find and follow the authors that inspire you.

Another tip is to follow the author instead of the publication. Often times, contributors to major blogs (like many of us here on Networking Exchange) write for a variety of publications. I myself contribute to Black Enterprise magazine and write on my own blog as well. The next time you find an article you enjoyed or found useful, Google the author’s name and see what comes up. They may have a personal blog, Twitter account, or Facebook page worth following so you can get the absolute latest output from them.

Keep track of these authors so that they’re more than just names for you. Read bios when they’re available so that you know more about the author and where they’re coming from. If they’re someone whose content really resonates with you, don’t just read their commercial writing work, but see instead if they have a personal blog. Their personal writing may be an additional source of inspiration and a place to find new content to share on social media.

Be sure to keep an eye on smaller writers as well, not just ones who write for major publications. An author with hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter is a great person to follow, but someone with only a few hundred followers could be someone you get to know and can interact with. By identifying people in your field and starting conversations with them on Twitter and Facebook, you have another way to use social media on slow days and to make sure you’re making your goals and keeping to your schedule.

4. Don’t be afraid to recycle old content.

One other trick I like is re-tweeting or re-posting older content. If your business or brand has content that’s fresh but not necessarily new, say some recent YouTube or Socialcam videos or some blog posts that are a few months old, those can be great to push back out and try and re-engage with followers on social media.

The one trick is to avoid overloading your followers with old content. While it can be good to bring things back every once in a while (after all, not all of your followers will see every tweet or Facebook post you put out there), nobody wants to see you constantly recycling content they’ve already seen. But if you’re having trouble making the number of posts per day or per week you’ve resolved to do, then some recycling of content can really help to fill in those gaps.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

In school, teachers always told their students that there were no dumb questions and that students shouldn’t feel afraid to raise their hands and ask away. On social media, asking questions might get you answers to things that have perplexed you but they’re also a great way to get followers to interact with you.

While this trick isn’t something you should do every day, it might be a good thing to add to your repertoire. From simple questions like, “What are you looking forward to today?” to complex ones like, “Where do you need help in your social media strategy?” these will hopefully generate discussions and activity on your feed and will help you feel engaged with your base.

 

Mario Armstrong, Digital Lifestyle Expert, is an Emmy Award winning, tech commentator for the TODAY show, CNN, HLN and Fuse. An entrepreneur by nature, Mario made his passion his career by quitting his day job and founding Mario Armstrong Media. Follow Mario at @MarioArmstrong. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.